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Local couple helps Associated Charities launch new cooking class

ASHLAND – When Chris Box started as Executive Director at Associated Charities, it didn’t take long for her to notice some commonalities about clients coming in for food assistance.

Many were happy to accept certain ingredients, like ground beef, but hesitant to take others, like beef roasts, from the food bank.

“I just don’t know how to cook that,” the clients would say.

That sparked an idea for Box.

“I thought, ‘Using a Crockpot is so easy. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could start a class?’” Box said.

So Associated Charities piloted a new slow cooker class last fall and expanded the effort this spring, thanks to the generosity of a donor couple from Ashland County Community Foundation.

Logistics Coordinator Jenny Taylor teaches the class with small classes of six to eight people who Associated Charities believes will truly benefit from the program. Each participant is hand-picked by Associated Charities or by case workers from Appleseed Community Mental Health Center.

To ensure clients will have the ability to put their new skills into practice at home, Associated Charities gives each class participant a Crock Pot, a cookbook full of simple slow cooker recipes, cooking utensils, an oven mitt, measuring cups and all the ingredients to prepare their first meals.

Robert Walkerow, 54, of Ashland, took part in the most recent class, where participants learned to make a chicken and rice dish and a beef and potatoes dish.

Walkerow said he jumped at the opportunity to try the class because it fulfilled both his need to get out into the community more and his desire to find healthy, affordable meal options.

“With grocery prices as high as they are, it’s extremely difficult to eat healthy,” he said. “When you’re on welfare, you feel like maybe you don’t belong. You’re less a part of the community. So it was a nice class, and I never felt like I didn’t belong.”

Just one week after taking the class, Walkerow had already put his slow cooker to use at home, and he had ideas for recipes he can make in the future.

Total costs for the class run about $90 per participant, a cost organization leaders view as a worthy investment in the health and wellbeing of participants and their families.

When Box told Ashland County Community Foundation president/CEO Jim Cutright about the program, he was impressed.

“I think I can help you find a donor to support this,” he told her.

Cutright then reached out to Thomas and Kristie Donelson, a young couple who recently established their own charitable fund, called a donor advised fund, at Ashland County Community Foundation.

Like all new donor advisors, the Donelsons had met with Cutright and filled out a donor interest form to indicate the types of programs they would like to support with grants from their fund.

Cutright asked the Donelsons if they would like to consider making a $1,000 grant toward the new slow cooker program at Associated Charities. The Donelsons loved the idea so much they chose to grant $3,000, enough to sustain the program for a full year.

“We liked this program because it promotes easy, healthy, budget friendly meals,” Kristie Donelson said.

Associated Charities has special meal bags available for clients who have taken one of the Crockpot classes, so when class participants come in for food assistance, they can be given a kit with all the ingredients to make a Crockpot meal. 

“We have some clients from the pilot class who are really using the program and asking for those items when they come in, so we see that this is working,” Box said.

The Donelsons are thrilled to see the impact of their charitable giving.

“We feel fortunate to be able to help the community,” Kristie Donelson said. “We have all kinds of causes we want to donate to, but we want to keep it local because we see the need and we can see the results.”

For Cutright, making these kinds of connections is one of the greatest joys of the job.

“Connecting people who care with causes that matter is at the heart of what we do at Ashland County Community Foundation,” Cutright said. “Seeing the impact our donors are able to make to improve the quality of life in our community is what drives us every day.”

For more information about becoming a donor at Ashland County Community Foundation, contact Cutright at (419) 281-4733 or

About Ashland County Community Foundation: Ashland County Community Foundation advances philanthropy and improves the quality of life in Ashland County by connecting people who care with causes that matter. ACCF has awarded over $25 million in scholarships, grants and distributions.